MANILA, Philippines - The Ombudsman has not yet filed any case against former Agriculture Secretary Luis "Cito" Lorenzo and Undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante over the alleged P728 million fertilizer fund scam.
Kilusang Magbubukid sa Pilipinas (KMP) secretary-general Danilo Ramos showed House media a certification to that effect issued by the Sandiganbayan February 25, 2011. The certification was signed by Atty. Renato Bocar, executive clerk of court IV.
ACT Teachers’ party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio said the certification runs counter to statements made by Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez during a July 2010 press conference where she said there are findings of graft and malversation of funds against the 2 and will be filing cases against them.
“July 10, 2010 pinresent nila sa publiko ang findings. They found Bolante and Lorenzo liable for graft and malversation matapos ang ilang taon. Sa halip na plunder, dahil P728 million ang involved, nirekomenda nila ay graft and malversation lamang. Seven months later, may certification ang Sandiganbayan na wala pa ring fina-file. So nadidiin dito pagkainutil ng Ombudsman sa pagtanggol sa taongbayan laban sa corruption," Tinio said.
The certification comes as the House of Representatives justice committee prepares to vote on the sufficiency of grounds on the 2 impeachment complaints filed against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.
House Justice Committee chairman Niel Tupas said the panel will vote on the sufficiency on the grounds for impeachment on Tuesday. “Tomorrow, voting on sufficiency on the grounds for impeachment then clarificatory hearings. March 2 on the 1st (complaint), March 3 on the 2nd. March 7 on the Ombudsman then March 8 voting on probable cause," he said.
Tupas hinted the plenary voting on the impeachment may come before the March 24 adjournment.
Under the Rules of Impeachment, any successful impeachment proceeding must first garner the support of 1/3 of the members of the House at the filing of the case or during the plenary voting. No creeping impeachment, similar to the impeachment of former president Joseph Estrada, is allowed. A third of the current 283-man Lower House is equivalent to 94 lawmakers.
Tupas remained unsure if they have the time and numbers to impeach before the March 24. “Possibly, but plenary voting not yet sure if we can finish before March 24 adjournment. We can try but you know in the plenary some members can just filibuster to delay," he said.
Kabataan party-List Rep. Raymond Palatino hopes the House can vote in plenary on the impeachment before the March 24 adjournment.
“Dapat habulin ng Congress ang time. Hanggang March 25 na lang ang congress, sana di madelay voting," he said.
Palatino said this is the House majority’s first test of leadership, considering many of its members used to be allied with the formerly ruling Lakas-Kampi CMD party perceived to be sympathetic to the Ombudsman.
”Sa plenary yun yung 1st real test for majority," he said.
Anakpawis party-list Rep. Rafael Mariano said: “Malakas ang grounds for her impeachment. Malakas paniniwala na may probable cause ang inihaing impeachment laban kay Ombudsman Gutierrez.”
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teodoro Casiño added: "It's damning enough. Dito pa lang kita na ang betrayal of public trust.”
Gabriela party-list Rep. Emerciana de Jesus said women’s groups will picket the Ombudsman tomorrow to support the impeachment.